This is a fun getting-to-know-you tag that was apparently started in 2017 by Arwen Lynch. I’m not sure how I didn’t see it when it first made the rounds (or who knows, maybe I did), but Benebell Wen just did a great post on this tag, and it looked like so much fun that I felt I had to join in. (Plus, she gave my blog and YouTube channel a shoutout! Thanks, Benebell!) I know I just posted a deck review, but what the heck; let’s do two posts in one week. We’re going wild up here in 2020.
1: What is your current favorite deck?
I’ve just come off a year of reading almost exclusively with the Thoth deck, which has been incredibly enriching for my Tarot practice on the whole. I’d used the Thoth before, but not in great depth, and boy howdy did it change my Tarot practice. I am so, so glad I took that year, and I highly recommend a similar exercise to any reader who feels like their practice is plateauing.
That said, my current favorite deck is the Golden Universal Tarot. It’s a RWS clone, but shiny. Every card has gilded elements, ranging from the swirling, dotted background of many of the Majors (as in the Magician, pictured on the deck box) to gilding on the Cups and Pentacles in their respective suits. It’s damn pretty, and because it’s a straight RWS deck, it’s incredibly easy to read with. Mostly, though, I’m just a sucker for gilding. I first encountered this deck in the Tina Fey movie Wine Country, where it’s used by a Tarot reader who warns the cast of the problems looming in their friendships—and I had ordered the deck off Amazon before the movie had finished its runtime. It’s pretty and I love it.
2: What Tarot card do you think stands for who you are now?
Hoo, boy, this is a test of my ego. Or rather, of my humility. (Just checking: It would not be humble to say I’m the World, right?)
In all seriousness, I’m going to go for the Page of Cups here. I’ve written before about the significators I use and how they change over time (the blog is named after a time when I used the Page of Wands as my significator). Over the course of the past year, I’ve done a lot of inner work on opening up and being more emotionally vulnerable and compassionate—and in particular, on understanding that the anger I so often feel over the current state of the world is a defense mechanism that masks a deep, profound grief. I still have a lot of work to do in this area (because The Work never ends), but I’m certainly in a very Cupsy place in my life right now, and I think the page captures that perfectly.
3: What card do you think stands for who you want to be?
I’m going to stick with the suit here and say that for the current work I’m doing, I’m trying to become the King of Cups. (And then, of course, there will be someone else to become after that.) The Page is the beginning of that journey, and the King is its fruition; I’ve always seen the King of Cups as the card that represents compassion, more than any other card in the deck.
4: Draw a Tarot card and tell us how it answers the question: “What does the Universe want you to know right now?”
I drew the Lovers in reverse. I think this card speaks to the idea (particularly in 2020) that things don’t always have to be perfect. Things won’t always be perfect, and sometimes they’ll be actively sucky. I tend to be the sort of person with lofty, unrealistic expectations. I tend to hold myself, others, and the world to an impossible standard, which can leave me angry, hurt, and wanting to lash out when that standard is inevitably fallen short of. The Lovers rx, in this case, speaks to me of the idea that little-G goodness is important and valuable, and not everything has to be Good in capital letters.
5: Do you have any cards that you MUST love in order to work with a deck?
Hrm. I certainly used to. In particular, I looked at Death, the Hanged Man, and the Three of Swords. I thought (and still do think) that an artist’s approach to those three cards can say a lot about what the deck is like overall. These days, I don’t know that those cards are make-or-break for me, although they’re certainly important. I think the bigger thing is the feel of the deck overall. How does it fit into Tarot tradition? How is it groundbreaking or unique? What’s the art style like? Which are the cards I’m madly in love with? And are there any cards that leave me cold?
6: Why Tarot and not some other divination system?
I’ve written about this before. The long and short of it is, Tarot is a complete system. Like, a super complete system. It’s intricate, and delicate, and beautifully balanced. I deeply, firmly believe that the whole range of human experience is expressed in the cards, not just in the artwork, but in the way those cards relate to each other numerologically, elementally, astrologically, Qabalistically, and so on. To me, the difference between Tarot and other systems is like the difference between a graphing calculator and an abacus. Sure, other systems can give good, practical answers (and there are non-Tarot systems I use and love!), but for the really complex stuff, nothing is going to handle the intricacies as well as Tarot.
7: What’s the first book you can remember reading about Tarot (other than the LWB [Little White Book])?
This is a question that I’ve historically avoided answering in public, because it betrays how frightfully young I am. Then again, I’m in my mid-twenties now, so I’m not quite as frightfully young as I was when I first started the blog. My first real Tarot book was Tarot 101, by Kim Huggens. It’s a lovely book, grouping the Major Arcana in a thematic structure that made them easy to learn and connect to each other. I’ve since read other books that have become my go-to- recommendations for new readers, but this was a great place for me to start, and I recommend it highly.
8: What Tarot person would you like to sit down with for a chat about Tarot?
Pamela Coleman-Smith. No question whatsoever. In addition to being one of the most influential people in modern Tarot (whose name is not spoken nearly often enough alongside the other occult greats), she led a fascinating life.
9: Tell me about one YouTube Tarot channel that you watch (and why).
I love The Truth in Story. For one thing, Kelly puts content into her videos. They’re not just five-minute snippets; many of her videos are over an hour long. I love her conversational presence and the way she engages with viewers, and on top of that, her channel is a fantastic place to lust over Tarot decks that I don’t own and probably shouldn’t buy (just because I’m running out of shelf space to store my collection).
10: How many decks do you have?
I maintain an active deck list on the blog, and the current count is 57, although two of those are currently on loan to friends (at least one of which I expect I’ll probably never see again). I vaguely fear that I may have acquired a deck or two and forgotten to put it on the list, but you can rest assured that this list is at least mostly up to date.
11: Do you mix Tarot and oracles when you read?
Nope. Not a big fan of oracle decks, personally. Never have been. There’s a post (which I linked in my answer to question 6) where I talk a bit about my reasons why. There are some other non-Tarot divination systems I use with some regularity (chief of which is a Balkan form of favomancy), but I don’t typically mix those with Tarot. If I’m doing a Tarot reading, it’s usually only a Tarot reading.
12: Have you ever created your own Tarot card or deck?
I have not, although my first-ever Tarot journal did include some stick-figure sketches of the cards. I’m not an artistically gifted person, nor even an artistically passable person. I love art, but I have long since decided that I prefer for my role in the visual arts to be that of audience, rather than creator.
That said, I do know a couple of wonderful people who have made their own decks. Benebell Wen has the magnificent Spirit-Keeper’s Tarot, which is currently underway with the design process for its third (?) edition. I’m lucky enough to have a copy of the Vitruvian edition of this deck, and it is wonderful.
I’ve also had the pleasure to meet Ana Tourian, an incredibly gifted Tarot artist. She’s illustrated a number of Tarot decks and a Lenormand, but the only deck of hers I own is her fascinating ink-blot deck, the Hidden Waters Tarot.
13: Do you read for yourself?
Absolutely. All the time.
14: What are your favorite questions to be asked when you do a reading for someone else?
Any question that isn’t about someone’s job or love life. (I jest. Mostly.)
In a bit more seriousness, I like most questions. I’m a lot more open about questions than I used to be, and in particular I’m much fonder of predictive reading than when I first started out. Using Tarot to predict the future used to be anathema to me; now, I really enjoy it, and make a point to try to make my predictions as specific and detailed as possible. I suppose my favorite questions are those where the querent gives me background contextual information and then interacts dynamically with me throughout the reading, with things like “Ah, yes, I know who that person is, you’re talking about my boss.” Not so much a type of question as a type of querent, I know, but it makes a world of difference to have Tarot be a conversation between reader and querent rather than a static monologue.
15: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you during a reading?
There’s a lot of the usual; spend enough time as a Tarot reader, and you’ll get used to people spontaneously bursting into tears. But probably my proudest, spookiest accomplishment is the time I told a friend who works in retail, “It looks like something really bad is going to happen in your work life in about 7 weeks,” and then 7 weeks later a global pandemic hit and plunged us into the hellscape that is 2020.